November 28, 2013

WILLIAMS: Mother's passing leaves empty feeling at home

My mother died yesterday.

The last time I reported on her condition, she was home after having had a stroke and being extremely uncooperative. She did not sleep for a week; she did not eat for a week. I finally took her to the emergency room. It turned out she had pneumonia from aspirating. She was in the hospital for three days, then transferred back to Wellbrooke.

She continued to go down hill. At first, she thrashed and cried, before lapsing into a state that wasn’t quite a coma but wasn’t quite consciousness either. She was peaceful (they were giving her morphine by then).

Four nights in a row, they told me she couldn’t last through the night but she did. I had to smile just a little because my mother was the sweetest little woman in the world but she was also determined as they come. I knew she would die when she was ready, not when anyone else thought she should. I spent hours at Wellbrooke the last week but she died when I wasn’t there.

One of the older nurses said, “some people prefer to die alone – if she goes when you’re not here, you have to believe that was her choice.” That made me feel better.

She had made her own arrangements years ago. She’d willed her body to the Indiana University Medical Center.

“Maybe I can contribute some last little bit of good before I’m gone. How do we expect young doctors to learn if we don’t provide them the resources they need?”

The closer the time came, the more squeamish I became about that decision but I would never have denied her wishes.

I.U. came and picked her up. She wanted no memorial service, nor to have her obituary in the paper. “Anyone who cared about me will know through you.”

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